Greater Flint Hall of Fame


Pete Fornari Story

1951 Mandeville Football Team by Dan Nilsen (November 21, 2007)

Shutting out eight teams in nine games didn't seem like such a big deal at the time. Going through a Pete Fornari practice is a more vivid recollection for members of the 1951 Mandeville High football team.

Fifty-six years after their 9-0 season, in which they outscored their opponents 203-6, the Spartans still recall the daily grind of practice more clearly than their Friday night glory.

"The practices were probably rougher than the games were," said Larry Eickhoff, a junior quarterback and safety on the team that is being inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame this fall. "I was surprised to hear about our record. At the time it didn't seem like much."

Echoed Jack Williams: "I don't think anybody realized we were that good at the time. We just worked hard and played hard. Pete Fornari made sure of it."

A steely-eyed disciplinarian who had played quarterback at Michigan State, Fornari drilled his team in the basics of blocking and tackling, including a punishing test that sent a ballcarrier through a triangle of three tacklers.

"If he wasn't satisfied with the tackle, he would take the ball and he would run through it," said Scott McCollom, a junior defensive lineman. "Nobody wanted to deal with that. "We were more afraid of him than any team we played."

Cast in the same mold of intensity was Jerry Williams, a two-way senior end who had once played on a men's softball team as an eighth-grader and later played with Ron Kramer at the University of Michigan.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Williams led Mandeville in scoring, mostly on end-around runs or pass receptions that earned him the nickname "Sticky Fingers."

On defense, he was a rock.

"Nobody went around his end," said McCollom. "I was always thankful I didn't have to play against him, he brought such intensity to the game."

Other defensive stalwarts were McCollom, Paul Bennett, Dave McGinnis, Ron Webb and Bud Garrison on the line, with Don McManus and Jerry Doyle at linebacker and Eickhoff, Mike McGrath and Darrell Davenport in the defensive backfield.

Together, they didn't allow an opponent past midfield until week six, when Dye got to the 5-yard line but no farther.

The following week, a Spartans fumble at their own 25 set up the only score they allowed all season, a Swartz Creek touchdown in the second period. The 1-yard run by Duane Tillson broke a scoreless string of 33 quarters and eight games stretching back into the last two games of 1950.

Mandeville still pulled out a 12-6 victory. Jerry Williams made "an unbelievable catch," according to a Journal story, to set up the tying touchdown in the third quarter, and a Creek fumble led to Davenport's winning TD run in the final minute.

Another scare came the following week, when Mandeville and defending champion Hoover skated back and forth on a field turned icy by a snowstorm.

"We had to clear the field of snow, and it was hard to see the yard-markers," said McCollom. "That game could have gone either way."

It went Mandeville's way on a fluke safety in the third quarter. The Spartans were knocking on the door, but a pass intended for Jack Williams was intercepted on the goal line. The Hoover player made the mistake of stepping back into the end zone, and Williams, Jerry's younger brother, tackled him for a 2-0 lead that held up.

"If Jack had caught the ball in the first place, we would have won the game by seven points," McCollom still teases.

"The pass was over my head," Jack counters.

The win clinched the County C League title, and Mandeville quietly wrapped up its perfect season the following Wednesday with a 20-0 win over Otisville. They were ranked third in the state.

Four Spartans made the All-County team -- Jerry Williams, Davenport, McGinnis and Webb -- and Williams was a consensus All-State pick.

Fornari died in 1990 and was inducted into the hall in 2000. Williams, whose jersey No. 33 was retired, died in 1998.

"Jerry Williams was the team," said McCollom. "The rest of us were just there.

"I think back on that year and it was Jerry Williams and Pete Fornari."

And eight shutouts.

Iron Fisted Leader